Thierry Colson had more experience than most when he decided to launch his namesake collection after a holiday to India in 2005. Consulting for brands like Jil Sander, Chloé and Hermès and teaching at the Studio Berçot in Paris gave him unique insight into the industry before jumping all in with his own brand. He was also an editor at Vogue Hommes for many years. When the time was right Colson he decided to design ‘the leisure product’. Drawn to the artisanal work he came to love while in India, he incorporates embroidery and blockprint design into his collections all made out of the finest Italian poplins.
How did your time studying and teaching at Studio Berçot in Paris play a role in helping to develop your design aesthetic?
I studied for two years and taught for seventeen (alongside other jobs outside the school). The first year I did not understand anything, but was feeling very different from the other pupils and also completely different within the established fashion of that time. As a student we were really few people and when we showed our work at the end of the 2 years, we were only 10 pupils, so we had a really sensitive relationship with the wonderful Marie Rucki, our master & leader of Studio Bercot. Marie knows how to help you to discover your hidden talents, she’s an eye opener.
Unconventional and strict also. Working with all kind of students for so many years opened my adaptability to help all of them even when there were completely different tastes, we teachers were like coaches. In your personal life you adapt yourself to all kinds of situations
What did you enjoy most about consulting for other brands like Jil Sander, Chloé and Hermès?
At Jil Sander, I worked on the campaign with Marc Ascoli as an A.D, until Jil wanted me in Hamburg as a designer. Martine Sitbon who was consulting for Chloé at that time, saw my sketches and loved them so Martine’s Chloé assistant went to Jil and I stayed in Paris and went to Chloé. At the time the brand needed more feminine touches and I was good at that. Hermès was a special relationship, I helped edit the menswear show with Veronique Nichanian several times and also did some editorial for them in Le monde d’hermes. And once I did their international campaign too. Consulting for other brands is playful and it’s a great training.
Having also spent years as an editor, did that give you a unique understanding of the industry before branching out on your own?
Absolutely, I thought something was missing, which is now everywhere: the leisure product!
Selling was mandatory for me, many designers just want to “create” and don’t care that much about selling especially when they have a backer, but I’m an independent brand still. I know exactly who are my customers and their lifestyle. The company is growing drastically on its own.
What inspired you to begin designing for your own brand?
I went on a holiday trip to India in 2003, and after it was the first time I really wanted to go back and start my own project. The finest Indian cotton voile reminded me of English fashions at the end of the 18th century between Marie Antoinette, and Trianon & Josephine which are an obsession. I was also inspired by when the aristocracy started to wear cotton instead of silk. And the perception of time in India and all its possibilities pushed me to get out of the comfortable and spoiled state of a fashion editor. I felt frustrated and wanted to be my own Lord by taking risks by starting my own label.
Who is the woman you’re designing for? Are they any particular muses?
They’re international women and could be from 15 to 90 years old. They have a sense of style beyond “fashion.” For example, I used Gigi Ettetgui for my SS17 lookbook, we shot in Patmos, she could be one of my muses, she’s a brunette, extremely smart and cheerful. She’s the perfect easy chic person.
And Sofia Coppola – when she got pregnant she purchased the “Antoinette ” dress before showing her film. I love red hair actresses too like Julianne Moore.
What was your time spent traveling in India like? What specifically were you exposed to that influenced your collection?
I spend 4 months a year in India, but since I started, more and more I am producing in France with Italian fabrics with the finest poplin. I keep India for the crafted elements: embroideries, embellishments and block prints. I would not say the collection looks Indian overall, maybe a touch of Indian influence. So many mass market, cheap labels are making in India with embroidered Kurtas that you have to be specific and different! India gives me a lot of energy and freedom to create when I’m there. Indian people are really enthusiastic and very helpful.
You’ve said that your collections begin with “the idea of a holiday souvenir,” what does that mean to you?
I’ve been traveling a lot since I was a child, and each trip gives me new influences. When you travel you’re a different person, more open and relaxed and for me, the idea of the collection is to escape in all senses.
We just shot the last Pre-collection 18 lookbook in Pays Basque near Biarritz, and a fabric I chose made me think of that since the beginning: a spunge-like fabric that looks like an old robe you can find in a family house, with orange/white stripes. I also used this fabric to make a “capeline” hat in collaboration with the beautiful brand FILUHATS. I found a great hat shape in Britanny while visiting St Malo, so I made one for the collection in straw.
I read in an interview you said that although you’re French, the collection is not sold in Paris. Is this true? Why do you feel the collection does not appeal to French women?
Of course French women love the collection, but they were before buying online at Matches Fashion, which is our best partner, or attending our private sales.
Japan was our first territory, then the UK was incredible, and now the USA is excited for the collection.
I love English interiors & colors, garden parties, English gardens, and other English eccentrics. I just read in English the Cecile Beaton book, The Glass of Fashion that all people interested in fashion should read. And one of my favorite films is Barry Lyndon. I use a lot of those influences in my work so English women have been immediately seduced because the roots were familiar to them.
With Summer 17 collection, we now have 3 stockists in Paris and the best ones:
LE BON MARCHE, L’ECLAIREUR, and MONTAIGNE MARKET (who also bought for St Barth).
What’s an average day like for you?
Busy busy busy…but when I’m free Yoga Iyengar, and meditation helps.
At the moment I love to escape to St Malo / Dinard on the English channel. I’ve just been to Venice preview biennale also. Traveling is part of my job…
What’s next for the Thierry Colson brand?
High summer delivery,which will be like a 3rd part / drop from the summer collection (no fall right now). And a unisex shirt line, all my friends want them. And few capsules in progress.